Saturday, 25 June 2011

But Don't Worry So Much

I had an interesting conversation with a Single the other day about determining God's plan for you. It struck me that if you beg God over and over again to reveal His plan, you might not being giving Him a chance to get a word in edgewise. By asking so many questions, you won't be open to hearing answers. I know it might be difficult to ask your questions and then sit in absolute, empty-headed, trusting silence in front of the tabernacle or crucifix, but why not try?

Trinity Sunday has just passed, and the worst Trinity Sunday homily I ever heard included a bold declaration that the Trinity was not an unplumbable Mystery. But, actually, yes, the Trinity is an unplumbable mystery. (Where did he get his theology degree, I wonder. Out of a Cracker Jack box?) There is a lot of mystery in Christianity, simply because our reason is just not big enough to take in the ways of God. This is very difficult for those who have broken the first commandment and enshrined limited human reason as a god before Him, but it should not be difficult for us Christians.

God's plan is a mystery, and goodness knows how much of it we ever get to see, let alone understand. Usually we can do it only through hindsight and theological speculation. The liturgies and Gospels show evidence of the apostles, who lived through such mind-blowing events, grasping at ways to explain what just happened in a way that their initially Jewish and then pagan audiences could understand.

Whether or not is a good idea to look back and see what God was doing with your life is an open question. I have received a great deal of comfort from a hypothesis about the point of my PhD program. That was an awful time, and it resulted in illness, dropping out of the program and falling out of love with academic Catholic theology.

Because I was an A student, prayed a lot before I entered the program, felt rock solid and happy that academic theology was what God was calling me to do, and it all went wrong anyway, what was God's point?

Over the years, it occurred to me that God's point was not the PhD program itself, but for me to meet my housemate Ted (who is in My Book), who got me interested in blogging. I started a blog, and because I started a blog, I had a book published, made some friends, met my husband and helped a lot of people.

From an economic point of of view, this is pretty nutty. If I had completed the PhD and gotten an academic post (as grads of my program generally did), I would now be pulling down thousands of dollars, called by a title, getting one of the best seats in the syna--at the theological table, and a whole lot of other nice stuff. Instead, five years of ministerial and theological study ended up in a blog, for which I am paid exactly nothing.

However, I'm not starving to death because first my family and now my husband makes sure I don't. I'm doing more than okay. And, as I constantly remember, St. Ignatius of Loyola told the first Jesuits that they were not allowed to charge for their work. I got my theological education from the Jesuits. Jesuit institutions, understandably, now charge for their work. But it makes me think about how truly valuable is unpaid work.

Anyway, we do worry that we will somehow mess up God's plan for us by making the wrong decision. But I say not to worry about that. God writes straight with crooked lines, as we are often told. Our Lord said "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God." Thus, if you do your best to obey His commandments, no matter what bad things happen or what good things do happen, somehow God's plan will unfold without interference from you. It will also happen in His own time, not yours, which is maddening, but He knows best.

The best gauge of what you should do, when it comes to state in life, volunteer work, friends and career, is what you want to do. We all struggle to do the right thing, but we very often know, deep down, what that right thing is. And the right thing is usually what we really do want. For example, there are girls who are tempted to sleep with the boyfriends they are in love with, even though deep down what they really want is to get married to men who are also in love with them, without committing mortal sins along the way. Sadly, a spirit of worry and pessimism tells them that this is hardly likely, if not impossible and "naive". The important battle is to fight off this spirit and all sinful desires so as to hear and protect the good desires central to our hearts.

We rip ourselves off all the time. I ripped myself off this morning by having only a cup of coffee for breakfast. (I'd better go now and eat something nutritious.) My unsolicited advice is not to rip yourselves off by settling for a sinful second best but to be faithful to Christ and the teachings of the Church. Do that and stop worrying about the future. When you're in the right place, doing the right job, friends with the right people, and in love with the right man or religious order, you'll know. You'll know because you'll feel very relaxed and happy and everything, for once, will seem easy.


berenike said...

I nipped in to the parish bookshop after the last evening Mass and ordered three copies of your book :) (for starters)

Seraphic said...

Thank you on behalf of my author's eagerness to sell well, however little money she makes by it! And no doubt Homo Dei--and, above all, the parish bookshop--thanks you too!

It is an interesting but little known fact that most of the time those who make the most money from a book are not the writer or the publisher but the bookseller. That is why it is a kindly thing to check to see if you can buy a book from the parish bookshop or another Catholic or small independent bookshop before going to Amazon or a Big Chain.

Sheila said...

This is not on topic, but have you seen this article? Right up your alley:

I wish I had known sooner that one's vocation was something one wanted to do. I always thought God could never be calling you to something you actually wanted, because then it wouldn't be a sacrifice for you to do it. So when I spent TWO YEARS testing a vocation and was miserable, it never occurred to me that that meant it wasn't for me. I thought I just wasn't supposed to be happy.

Kinda dumb. My real vocation makes me VERY happy and I enjoy 95% of it. That leaves 5% for sacrifice and doing things out of love. A much better balance.

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

Oh wow, did you write this just for me? I guess I should stop babbling to God and start listening, but I have to admit, I'm not sure how!

Little Mary said...

What a lovely post and how true!

La Chanteuse said...

Oh Seraphic thanks so much! I needed to hear this today. I'm struggling with my future and God's plan for me (who knew I am supposed to wind up $90,000 in debt upon graduation from my school?), what I'm meant to do and who I am. This post, however short, brought me back to look at things in perspective, even just a little. :)

Mrs Doyle said...

Thanks for this Seraphic!

I can recommend any of the books by Fr Jacques Phillipe - especially his one about 'Peace of Soul'.

One of the best things he mentions is that often we have trouble believing in Providence, and we don't allow God to show us how much He can look after us because we have a habit of planning and anticipating the future.
He suggests that we discern as best as we can, and even if there are still uncertainties and questions as to what best to do, unless we jump, God cannot be the parachute to catch us. Providence and grace can't work unless we allow God to have His space!

It's a great thing to know, but not just intellectually, we need to LIVE it!

Seraphic said...

Oh, La Chanteuse! I'm not certain young adults having $90,000 debt (student debt?) is really God's plan but a social injustice created by society. However, God does write straight with crooked lines, so you just get a job, pay back the debt and soldier on doing His will.

Jess said...

God doesn't ask us to be successful, he asks us to be faithful.

Your point is a valid one- that God writes straight with crooked lines and He can more than compensate for our own foolishness.

I know that in the future the confusion and pain of now will be cleared up, and I'll see how God was working in my life. I always do. I still wonder why he allowed certain people to come into my life, and heartbreak to happen. I can tell for sure that I learned from all of it, but I wonder if some of my pain came from me not listening to him and listening more to myself and what I wanted. Something to think about!

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I spent a lot of time waiting for a lightning bolt- begging for it, and to be honest borrowing and stealing it looked like appealing options. Of course, my mother had it right - "God's plan isn't about what you do; it's about who you are." She said make a choice, and if it's wrong or not meant to be, God will put something in the way - and she gave me the following example. She was going to start studying at a photography institute, had been accepted, all lined up, etc., when she learned she was expecting me. Back before digital cameras were the norm, the chemicals were too dangerous to be around for a pregnant woman. That plan didn't work out- but I'd like to think I did. :D

I still want lightning bolts, but here's hoping for the future- I know God will be there.


Anna M said...

La Chanteuse, I feel your pain!! I've been greatly blessed with a job in my field, but I am NOT looking forward to when those loans will go into re-payment!

This post was the perfect thing for me to read right now. I like the idea that your vocation is something that you WANT to do. A lot of times I get confused in my thoughts, because for some reason I see more people who are suffering in their state of life, and complaining about how horrible life is. I went through that phase myself. I am unsure why, but i keep thinking that we as Catholics are SUPPOSED to be suffering, because in order to be closest to Christ, we should experience suffering because that is what He did in order to redeem us. I am unsure why that translates into an attitude that I am not supposed to be happy. Maybe it's because of my upbringing, growing up with an unhappy family in unhappy circumstances. I don't know.

Kate P said...

I am taping a printout of that last paragraph to my bureau mirror (home of all sorts of inspirational stuff).

berenike said...

Anna M - but unless you've got some constructive mortification of the flesh going, then you're not supposed to go out *looking* for suffering. You're supposed to go out looking for the good to be done!

~MargoB said...

O my word! I *so* needed to hear all this today! Fear of disappointment and of doing the 'wrong' thing (i.e., what if I took a wrong turn from God's will because maybe I wasn't listening well enough?!) was keeping me from pursuing things I love to do. Someone in my life reminded me today that there's no 'wrong' thing to do when you're not sure what's next, because you can't know the future/can't know where it will lead you.

One of the best lines he said was "So embrace your cluelessness! Pick whichever of these things you can get into your life/routine the soonest, and do/pursue that! And see what happens. Either you'll hate it and know to quit, or you'll enjoy it. And it will lead to other things; that's how life works."

SO freeing, that! And yet, I confess: ditching the fear and taking action isn't going to be 100% easy. Mrs. Doyle, THANK YOU for your words on leaving room for/trusting Providence. Needed to hear that, for sure!

Thanks for this post, Seraphic; more on this point would be happily read by